Yet all Benedict has to do is make indirect references to and promises about these devastating crimes and cover-ups, and he is widely graced with favorable international coverage. With just two or three carefully orchestrated sentences over a few days, Benedict leaves the impression that he's doing something about an intractable, decades-old crisis.
Many in the Church hierarchy seem to think that the most brief acknowledgment of wrongdoing and an indistinct promise of reform will generate sufficient goodwill.
Keep in mind that the pope is the CEO of a global monarchy with a very troubling track record when it comes to the safety of kids.
Benedict has the power, with a stroke of a pen, to really make a difference and protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and restore trust in the hierarchy. He just refuses to use that power in any way that brings true reform to the Church by putting an end to decades of secrecy and recklessness.
Instead, he only uses words. Words can be powerful weapons, especially when the pope is taking on worldwide crises over which he has no control, like poverty, war, racism and AIDS. But over this scandal, Benedict has virtually limitless power. And his words, however eloquent, protect no one (except perhaps the Church's criminals and enablers).
Sadly, this pattern of talking a lot but doing little to tackle predatory priests, nuns, brothers, bishops and seminarians "trickles down." When the media and the parishioners are moved by gestures and impressed with words, few in the Church hierarchy feel compelled to take tangible steps to oust child-molesting clerics, or have them criminally prosecuted, and help their still-suffering victims.